The BRAIN Initiative extends beyond the mapping of the brain and bridges scales that span from atoms to thoughts and behavior, linking what is known about single cells and subcellular activities in the brain to whole brain function leading to complex behavior. This initiative holds great promise for addressing fundamental neurobiological questions about healthy brain function, laying the groundwork for advancing treatments for nervous system disorders or traumatic brain injury, and for generating brain-inspired "smart" technologies to meet future societal needs.

NSF is uniquely positioned to foster BRAIN Initiative research by bringing together a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines, and empowering these national and international communities whose members are poised to cooperatively pursue and reveal the fundamental principles and processes underlying memories, thoughts and complex behaviors.

Despite major technological advances of recent decades, we lack an understanding of how the brain functions in both spatial and temporal domains. The NSF BRAIN Initiative aims to generate an array of physical and conceptual tools needed to determine how healthy brains function over the lifespan of humans and other organisms; and to develop a workforce to create and implement these tools aimed at establishing a more comprehensive understanding of how thoughts, memories and actions emerge from the dynamic activities in the brain.

BRAIN Thematic Areas:

Multi-scale Integration of the Dynamic Activity and Structure of the Brain

To elucidate and link dynamics of the brain and neural circuits with brain function, including its real-time physiological, behavioral and cognitive outputs
Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure

To create tools to image, sense, record and affect real-time brain function and complex behavior, and develop theories and systems to collect, visualize, analyze, model , store, and distribute BRAIN data
Quantitative Theory and Modeling of Brain Function

To reveal emergent properties of the brain and provide predictive theoretical frameworks to guide future research
Brain-Inspired Concepts and Designs

To strategically capitalize on insights gained from BRAIN to inspire novel conceptual paradigms and innovative technologies and designs that will benefit society
BRAIN Workforce Development

To educate a BRAIN workforce and create new career opportunities for BRAIN discovery and innovation

Future Advances and Challenges: The NSF BRAIN Initiative promises innovative and integrated solutions to challenges in our ability to predict how collective interactions between brain function and our physical and social environment enable complex behavior. NSF's strategic investments will support research and infrastructure designed to transform our view of who we are and how we relate to and interact with each other and our ever-changing environment.

Image Credits

  1. Multi-scale integration of the dynamic activity and structure of the Brain
    Credit: Christine Daniloff
  2. Neurotechnology and Research Infrastructure
    Credit: Jeff Lichtman, Harvard University
  3. Quantitative Theory and Modeling of Brain Function
    Credit: "Synapse Revealed", created by Graham Johnson of for HHMI
  4. Brain-Inspired Concepts and Designs
    Credit: John Consoli, University of Maryland
  5. BRAIN Workforce Development
    Credit: Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman

"Understanding the Brain" title image credit: Deisseroth Lab